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Statewide curfew under discussion as multiple Hawaii ICUs operate at or above capacity

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 5:20 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 5:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The situation inside Hawaii’s hospitals is becoming more dire by the day. Staff shortages aren’t the only problem.

Leaders say a number of hospitals across the state have intensive care units running at or above capacity.

“We have a number of hospitals with ICUs running at 120 to 150% of capacity,” said Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO Hilton Raethel. “We have patients backed up in a number of our EDs (emergency departments) waiting for beds.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green says that includes the Queen’s Medical Center.

“Here on Oahu, our trauma center at Queen’s, they are full. They have no ICU beds left,” said Green. “So if there are car accidents or major heart attacks, they’re going to have to do their best to use their surgical facilities and other rooms to accommodate the service.”

He says hospitals are asking elected officials for more rules to help curb the need for emergency care.

On Monday afternoon, Queen’s issued a statement detailing its current situation.

“Queen’s is accepting patients who need emergency care for treatment such as traumas, heart attacks, and strokes. In addition, our intensive care unit (ICU) capacity fluctuates on any given day and time,” said Jason Chang, Queen’s Health Systems chief operating officer, in the statement.

“At the time of this writing, our ICU at The Queen’s Medical Center-Punchbowl is at capacity. We remain committed to providing care by constantly evaluating our operations to ensure our doors remain open to those in need of emergency care. Additionally, we also have the capability to treat patients at The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu. Our highest priority is the safety of our patients and our caregivers.”

Meanwhile, the first wave of health care reinforcements from the mainland arrived on the Big Island on Monday morning.

On Monday, 11 nurses and a respiratory therapist reported to Hilo Medical Center.

On the opposite side of the island, 35 more frontline health care workers arrived at Kona Community Hospital.

Resources at both facilities had been stretched to the limit. The relief workers will spend the next eight weeks helping tend to each hospitals COVID patients.

“It allows our strained staff to rest. To get a day off. To get re-energized and be on the top of their game to care for our patients,” said Hilo Medical Center’s Director of Public Affairs Elena Cabatu.

Those reinforcements are the first of approximately 550 caregivers expected to touch down in the islands over the next few weeks. They’ll be helping hospitals across the state cope with severe staffing shortages.

The lieutenant governor says as of this morning, there were 321 COVID patients hospitalized across the state — 26 are vaccinated.

He says discussions are underway to reduce other kinds of cases coming into the system.

“Whether that’s curfews which have been recommended by some in the hospital community,” he said. “Because late-night accidents are when you get overflow at the hospitals, especially for trauma services.”

Back on the Big Island, officials at Kona Community Hospitals say they plan to increase the size of their newly created COVID wing.

“We’re talking about expanding that wall today to be able to accommodate more patients because in our emergency department we are seeing quite a few positives come through,” said Judy Donovan, the hospital’s director of marketing and strategic planning.

Cabatu says say the average length of stay for a COVID patient at Hilo Medical Center is four weeks, while the average stay for a non-COVID patient is four days.

“This should be one of top reasons for people to get vaccinated,” she said. “If not yourself, for the next person who has a heart attack or is in a bad car accident.”

Statewide, 61.3% of the population is fully vaccinated.

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